Dixon, Lagana Eye Quarter Mile History at Northern Nationals; Plus Funny Cars, Jets

For second generation drag racers Dom Lagana and Larry Dixon, there is much more at stake this weekend than simply the Top Fuel championship at US 131 Motorsports Park’s annual Northern Nationals.

Although they are among six drivers vying for that title in a two-day event that also features nostalgia fuel Funny Cars, BB/Funny Cars, jet cars and a Guinness Book of World Records wheelstander, they are the only entrants considered capable of also challenging the sport’s all-time quarter mile performance records.

Since the NHRA no longer contests its events at that distance and since the IHRA pro series no longer exits, records that were established more than 10 years ago remain intact.

The IHRA standard of 4.484 seconds was set by Clay Millican in 2005 at Rockingham, N.C., while the NHRA record of 4.430 was established by Tony Schumacher in 2007 at Phoenix, Ariz.   Both could be in jeopardy this weekend.

One of the few tracks in the country still capable of racing 10,000 horsepower vehicles side-by-side over the full quarter mile distance, US 131 provides racers like Lagana and Dixon with a rare opportunity.

Both already have been close to breaking those records.

In fact, Lagana, son of the late Bobby Lagana Sr., a former Funny Car and Top Fuel driver from Scarsdale, N.Y., came ever so close to Millican’s mark at last year’s Northern Nationals when he ran 4.485 at a record-shattering speed of 338.35 miles per hour at the wheel of the Lagana family’s Nitro Ninja dragster.

Dixon, whose father is a past NHRA Winternationals champion, won three NHRA World Championships, the first two driving for Don Prudhomme (2002 and 2003) and the last for Qatar-based al-Anabi Racing in 2010.  His best quarter mile time was the 4.481 he posted qualifying for the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis in 2007.

Ironically, the two record rivals share an Australian connection.

Dixon, 51, set the official Australian National Drag Racing Association records of 4.503 seconds and 332.18 mph while on a down under tour with Aussie-based Rapisarda Autosport International, the same team with whom the 32-year-old Lagana won this year’s ANDRA Nationals at Calder Park Speedway outside Melbourne.

Nevertheless, despite the record implications, the primary goal of both drivers is to first win the drag race.  To do so, they will have to wade through a lineup that includes veteran Pat Dakin of Dayton, Ohio, who has finished as high as No. 2 in the NHRA driver standings, newcomer Kyle Wurtzel of Warsaw, Ind., double threat veteran Terry Haddock of Temple, Texas, who fields both a Funny Car and dragster in the NHRA series, and former IHRA standout Bruce Litton of Indianapolis.

Sharing the stage with the “Kings of the Sport” will be the four jet-powered dragsters of Florida’s Larsen Motorsports including that driven by two-time IHRA World Champion and Michigan native Elaine Larsen, the 300 mph “Home Wrecker” Ford jet truck driven by Jerry McCart of Ellenton, Fla., and Summerland, B.C., native “Nitro Mike Kunz” and his supercharged Chrysler hemi-powered PT Cruiser wheelstander which set the Guinness record after traveling 2504 feet, seven inches on the rear wheels at a finish line speed of 130 mph.

Funny Car fans won’t be forgotten, either.  The Funny Car show will include 12 supercharged alcohol-burners plus a pair of nostalgic nitro cars: John Lawson’s Joliet, Ill-based, “Runaway” 1970 Chevy Camaro Funny Car and the “Quickdraw” 2001 Firebird driven by Joey Haas of Morrison, Ill.,

Adult tickets are $20 Friday and $35 Saturday.  Children 6-12 are $10 daily while children five and under are free when accompanied by a ticketed adult.

Gates open at 4 p.m. Friday with a round of Funny Car qualifying at 8 p.m. and unlimited test-and-tune runs until 11 p.m.  Gates open at 8 a.m. Saturday with time trials for the Lane Automotive Bracket Series, which crowns champions in Modified, Top ET, Street, MOJO Quick 16 and three Jr. Dragster classes, at 9 a.m.  The pro cars and jets will run at 6 p.m. and again at 9 p.m.